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Kinser Elementary School second-grader Laura Sparkman plays Spanish speaking countries bingo during an Hispanic Heritage Month celebration at the school on Okinawa on Friday. About 100 students who participate in Spanish immersion classes rotated through five classrooms, learning a little about five Spanish speaking nations.
Kinser Elementary School second-grader Laura Sparkman plays Spanish speaking countries bingo during an Hispanic Heritage Month celebration at the school on Okinawa on Friday. About 100 students who participate in Spanish immersion classes rotated through five classrooms, learning a little about five Spanish speaking nations. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)
Kinser Elementary School second-grader Laura Sparkman plays Spanish speaking countries bingo during an Hispanic Heritage Month celebration at the school on Okinawa on Friday. About 100 students who participate in Spanish immersion classes rotated through five classrooms, learning a little about five Spanish speaking nations.
Kinser Elementary School second-grader Laura Sparkman plays Spanish speaking countries bingo during an Hispanic Heritage Month celebration at the school on Okinawa on Friday. About 100 students who participate in Spanish immersion classes rotated through five classrooms, learning a little about five Spanish speaking nations. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)
Kinser Elementary School third-grader Quan Cunningham, left, spins first-grade teacher Marisol Concepcion after she taught students to dance the merengue during the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.
Kinser Elementary School third-grader Quan Cunningham, left, spins first-grade teacher Marisol Concepcion after she taught students to dance the merengue during the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)
Kinser Elementary School teacher Marisol Concepcion teaches students to dance the merengue.
Kinser Elementary School teacher Marisol Concepcion teaches students to dance the merengue. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

CAMP KINSER, Okinawa — Almost 100 students at Kinser Elementary School traveled around the world Friday, visiting five countries without ever leaving the school.

The students, from the school’s Spanish immersion classes, took the class-to-class tour to learn more about Hispanic culture as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. Five classrooms were converted into miniature countries — Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Peru and the Dominican Republic — and students visited each for 35 minutes, according to Laura Stoller, one of Kinser’s Spanish immersion teachers.

Short lessons were held on each country, followed by experiencing parts of that culture like ethnic food, crafts, even dancing.

Marisol Concepcion turned her classroom into the Dominican Republic and gave students a chance to try the merengue, the country’s national dance.

“Last year I gave a history lesson on the Dominican Republic but this year I wanted to expose them to the music and food,” said Concepcion, who also fed the students some white rice with Dominican red beans.

“I wanted to do something fun and active. They did a fantastic job.”

Third-grader Quan Cunningham said the dancing was fun but admitted he was shy when Concepcion paired the boys with the girls for dance partners.

The immersion classes give students a chance to learn about Spanish culture while they learn the language, Concepcion said.

Students in first through fifth grade can participate in the class, Stoller said, and learn a little of the Spanish language every day.

“They don’t come out fluent at the end of the year but they will have some basic conversational skills,” she said.

The Spanish immersion classes have been held for nearly 10 years, Stoller said.

She said that in each of her four years at the school, teachers have tried to plan an event such as Friday’s to celebrate the culture during the heritage month, which runs through Oct. 15.

“It’s a great way to give them background and exposure to different things,” she said.

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